5 Ways Incline Walking Can Be a Game Changer for Your Health

Incline walking is an accessible workout for people of various fitness levels, it’s a great way to get your heart rate up, and effectively builds lower body strength.

5 min read

Health & Wellness

5 Ways Incline Walking Can Be a Game Changer for Your Health

Incline walking has been gaining steady popularity in the fitness world since TikTok’s viral 12-3-30 workout made an appearance on social media in 2019. And while this method has garnered a fair amount of criticism from experts, specifically because it can be quite intense for people who are new to working out, the essence of this workout is rooted in healthy cardiovascular exercise.

So, it’s no secret why incline walking is held in such high regard – it’s an accessible workout for people of various fitness levels, it’s a great way to get your heart rate up, and effectively builds lower body strength. Here are 5 reasons why you might consider trying it out and adding it to your own fitness routine!


1. Improves Your Cardiovascular Health

Your heart is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised just like the rest of your body. One of the best ways to do that is Zone 2 exercise! By increasing your heart rate to a moderate level, and sustaining that intensity for 20-30 minutes, you’re loading yourself with tons of heart healthy benefits like decreased blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, and optimized blood sugar.

If walking is your preferred method of cardio and you’re looking to get into Zone 2, adding incline to your regular walk can be an excellent way to do that. Alternatively, if you aren’t a big fan of running, you can gain the same benefits from incline walking that you do from running. It’s an excellent substitute for many other forms of cardiovascular exercise.


2. Cardio With Less Impact

If you have any joint pain or injuries and have trouble with running, HIIT training, or biking, then incline walking might be the perfect solution. Walking is generally lower impact than the aforementioned cardio options, but intensity ramps up when you add an uphill. It’s a great way to protect your ankles, knees, hips, and spine while also doing something good for your heart.


3. Builds Lower Body Strength

You probably don’t need me to tell you that incline walking makes your muscles work harder. If you’ve ever been hiking you’ve experienced that for yourself! The more you practice incline walking, you challenge your muscles to produce more force to propel you up that hill. Overtime, your body will adapt to this challenge by building strength in your lower body, especially your glutes. Hello, booty!


4. Effective at Burning Fat

In Zone 2, your body will gravitate towards primarily burning fat from your body’s stores to make energy. This can be a healthy way to improve body composition and manage your weight if that is one of your health and fitness goals.


5. Improves Your Functional Fitness

This is my favorite reason to start incline walking. It directly translates into other areas of your life! Walking on an incline allows you to become better at navigating different terrains while you are out and about. What’s more, your overall stamina will improve, regardless of what type of ground you are walking on. With both your muscular and cardiovascular strength improved, you will be able to be physically active for longer periods of time. Hiking in the mountains or taking a walking tour of San Francisco? Piece of cake.

Not only does it boost your stamina and make you physically more adept at navigating different terrain, but your mental stamina will also improve. Completing a physically challenging workout and proving to yourself that you CAN do hard things, will carry over to other mentally and physically demanding experiences in your life outside of fitness. It’s a win for mind and body.


Tips on Getting Started

It may feel a little daunting right out of the gates, but the more you practice incline walking the easier it will be! Here are a few tips for your first couple walks:


Be Mindful of Your Posture

When walking uphill, it is tempting to lean forward over your feet (I’m guilty of this myself). Try your best to keep a tall posture with each step so that your center of gravity remains directly below you. Leaning forward feels like it might help propel yourself uphill faster, but it mostly just puts excessive stress into your low back.


Let Go

You can think about this in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Literally, let go of the handrails if you feel safe enough to do so. I’ll caveat this with saying, if you struggle with balance please do hold on for your safety. But if you can walk comfortably without grabbing the rails, you will experience much more benefit! Holding on to the handrails will decrease the energetic cost of your walk, or in other words, you won’t need to work as hard as when your arms are swinging naturally by your sides.(1)

Metaphorically, practice letting go of any expected outcomes of the workout, discomfort that you’re experiencing (unless its an injury), or negative thoughts. Surrender to the workout and allow yourself to be in the present moment. Be proud of yourself for challenging yourself to do something difficult that will benefit your health!


Start Slow

Don’t feel like you need to start day 1 of incline walking by doing the 12-3-30. Setting a goal for yourself to work up to that (or any other goal that you have) will allow you to enjoy the process and experience each little win as you progress. If you start out with too much it can often feel overwhelming and less enjoyable. Not to mention allowing your body the time to gradually adapt to a more intense workload while avoiding injury.


Onward and Upward

Incline walking is an excellent, low-impact way to infuse your workout routine with countless physical and mental health benefits. Start out at your own pace, listen to your body, and have some fun with it! Take your workout to new heights and climb that hill.


1. IJmker, T., Lamoth, C. J., Houdijk, H., Tolsma, M., van der Woude, L. H., Daffertshofer, A., & Beek, P. J. (2015). Effects of handrail hold and light touch on Energetics, step parameters, and neuromuscular activity during walking after stroke. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12984-015-0051-3. Accessed 14 March 2024.


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